It comes with the territory

The last post dealt with extraterrestre/extraterrestrial and two other words based on Latin terra ‘earth.’ Still another is the extended territorio/territory, borrowed from the territrium that already existed in Roman times. We’ve extended that extension to extraterritorial, an adjective that means ‘outside of a given territory or jurisdiction.’ From Latin terrnus ‘of the earth’ we have terreno/terrain (with the English version coming via Old French from Vulgar Latin *terrnum). English also has the doublet terrane, which means ‘a geological formation;  a group of rocks having a common age or origin.’ With a different suffix we have terraza/terrace.

Medieval Latin terrrius ‘of the earth’ gave rise to Old French terrier, which appeared in the phrase chien terrier, literally ‘earth dog, ground dog,’ which designated a type of dog that would pursue hunted animals into their burrows (in the ground). Eventually the second word came to stand for the whole phrase and to be the name for the type of dog that English still calls a terrier.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. shoreacres
    Dec 06, 2013 @ 09:39:14

    Here’s my “Ah, ha!” for the morning. We also have terrines, those foods such as patés, which take their name from the dishes which contained them.

    It seems our tureens originally were called terrines, a nod to their earthenware nature.

    I remember seeing “terrine” in very early advertising for American pottery companies (c.1850-1880) but by 1900 it had disappeared in favor of “tureen”.


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Dec 06, 2013 @ 15:58:55

      That’s an excellent addition. I remember having a similar “ah ha” moment when I first learned the origin of tureen, which had never occurred to me because the change in spelling has interred the etymological recognition that would have come with the original spelling. Although it’s often the case in English that early spellings no longer correspond to modern pronunciation, a word like tureen offers a counter-argument to calls for drastically reforming English spelling.


  2. humanwritesblog
    Dec 06, 2013 @ 11:55:25

    Great blog! Another related Latin-based term that’s become popular (via French) is “terroir”. This refers to the particular characteristics instilled in products (wines, etc.) from a certain place. I really like the term and find that it does encapsulate a very real and important phenomenon. 🙂


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Dec 06, 2013 @ 15:47:32

      We’re on the same wavelength. Just last week I came across the word terroir (I can’t remember where, perhaps in the New York Times) and thought about including it in this post. I ended up not adding it, but I’m glad you brought it up and explained to people what it means. Thanks, and vive la France (even in a blog about Spanish).


  3. Jim in IA
    Dec 06, 2013 @ 13:07:24

    When I was a young boy, my mother helped me start a terrarium. We even had a venus fly trap plant in it.


  4. Kathryn
    Dec 09, 2013 @ 20:26:16

    Before I saw Jim-in-IA’s comment I was going to suggest that perhaps terriers would happily swap out their doghouses for terrariums; now I think they would probably want to do so whilst sipping a vintage wine with the right terroir. The very idea is only slightly terrifying.


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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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